In November, 2016, Sex Geekdom Vancouver started a conversation about why people do or do not disclose their number of lifetime sexual partners. This led to a survey which, an embarrassingly long time later, I have finally found time to look at. What follows is a brief overview of some of the results.
A total of 69 people (appropriately enough) responded to the survey. Six responses were omitted for irregularities or non-response, leaving a total of 63. The average age of the respondents was 32, and 62 per cent were women. In terms of sexual orientation, 37 per cent said they were straight, 44 per cent bisexual or pansexual, with the remaining 19 per cent divided between gay, lesbian, heteroflexible and queer people.
The average respondent had a lifetime 28 sexual partners, at a rate of 2.2 partners per year since first sex. The average age of first sex was 17.
The number of lifetime partners and number of yearly partners, however, were both skewed by a few particularly high performers. Most respondents had fewer than 20 lifetime partners, and fewer than two partners per year (see below).
Gender and Sexual Orientation
All but one respondent identified as either a man or a woman. Men were five years older than women on average (M: 35, W: 30), and reported their first sex as slightly later (M: 18, W: 17).
Men on average had slightly more sexual partners (M: 30, W: 27), but fewer sexual partners per year sexually active (M: 1.9, W: 2.3).
One a scale of zero to five, there was almost no difference between men’s average willingness do disclose their number (M: 4.2, W: 4.1) or their professed likelihood of lying about their number (M: 1.6, W: 1.5). Women, however, felt slightly better about their number than men (M: 4.0, W: 4.5).
There was no difference at all between average yearly number of partners of straight and bisexual/pansexual respondents (S: 2.1, B: 2.1). Age and age at first sex were also similar.
Number of Partners
The following are scatter charts comparing variables. No, I haven’t checked any of them for statistical significance (you probably don’t want to know.) Note that I have cut off some outliers in the charts to make them more readable, but the outliers still affect the trend lines.
Respondents felt better about their number the more lifetime partners they had.
People who started having sex later made up for lost time by having slightly more partners per year (or, perhaps, people who start having sex early start more slowly.)
People with more sexual partners said they were less likely to disclose and more likely to lie about their number.
The most common reason not to disclose was a fear of shame or rejection, followed by uncertainty about how many partners one has had.
What have we learned?
Not much. The more people our sample had sex with, the more they forgot how many people they had had sex with. Also, I take a long time to do things.